Paddy Hopkirk’s involvement with charities and worthwhile associations has become as recognised as his success as an iconic Rally Driver. When Paddy established the Motor Education project Skidz, in 1998 he hoped that it would act as a positive response to the rise in car crime in the High Wycombe area but the organization soon developed into an important educational programme which offered vocational skills in motor mechanics to help disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, who ran the risk of being out of employment or education.
Skidz, which relied on support from grants, donations and funds raised through the sale of Paddy’s exclusive Mini accessory range, Paddy Hopkirk Mini. In it’s time as an independently funded organization, Skidz has helped more than 8,000 young people gain valuable skills, find employment and build confidence. Less than 20 years after it was founded, Skidz has now gone on to become a registered educational establishment, which will now be supported in the private sector. As Skidz flies to new levels, Paddy has moved onto promoting further causes with a new title, as the appointed Mature Driver Ambassador for Britain’s biggest independent road safety charity, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) and will be championing the cause of the older driver for the organization in the future. In particular Paddy will be promoting the IAM’s Mature Driver’s Assessment (MDA) while also delivering safe driving advice – an area he is passionate about.
Paddy, who recently received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours this year, said: “I am delighted to be involved with the IAM. Our joint goal is to bring the numbers of people killed and injured on the roads down as low as we can. It’s something I know the IAM is dedicated to just as much as I am, so we are a great match!” he continued “With the numbers of drivers age 70 or more now increasing by over 10,000 a month, the Mature Driver’s Assessment is a great way for older people to gain the reassurance they need on increasingly congested British roads.”
Older drivers are statistically less likely to commit a motoring offence than those in their teens and 20s and are less likely to be in a serious or fatal road accident. In 2014 the IAM discovered that while 36,001 people between 20 and 30 were disqualified from driving in the previous 12 months, just 10,025 people in their fifties and just 3,874 drivers in their sixties. However older drivers face certain challenges such as coping with reflexes that are not as keen as before, deteriorating eyesight or hearing, and the potential onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The IAM believes enlightened policies and practical actions are needed to help older drivers keep safe and competently mobile for as long as possible, and to help them decide when the time has come to stop driving. Giving up driving too early places a direct burden on health and other services, which can no longer be independently accessed.
He said: “I really enjoyed taking the MDA. Everyone needs to revisit their abilities, and to get that from someone who is both independent and sympathetic to the driver is very valuable.” Many who have taken the Mature Driver’s Assessment then go on to do the IAM’s Skill for Life course leading to the Advanced Test, which gives candidates the chance to gain a comprehensive set of new skills for safer and enjoyable driving. Paddy’s sons and daughter have taken the IAM’s Advanced Test and passed.
Paddy added: “Everyone can be a better, safer driver – even someone who has won races and rallies. Paddy stated, “I’ve always said rallying is all about the ability to control the car, not just the speed of it. These are skills that can translate easily to driving on road. You need to get to know your car – how it will act and react if you encounter unexpected conditions.” Since the end of his active motorsport career, which includes five starts at the Le Mans 24 Hours and five Circuit of Ireland rally wins, Paddy has continued to be involved in the motor industry. He has run a successful car accessories company, and has promoted the MINI for many years as one of its best-known drivers. He has also appeared on numerous television shows celebrating his race and rally achievements over the years.
Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “We are delighted to have Paddy on board to promote the IAM and our Mature Driver’s Assessment. He is the perfect example of how being older shouldn’t be a barrier to a safe and enjoyable motoring life. As a note to end on, the IAM representatives stress that “Older drivers should always be aware their faculties might not be what they used to be, but as long as these are identified early and addressed, they shouldn’t be stopped from getting behind the wheel.”
As we enter 2016, alongside Paddy and his most recent MBE accolade, we couldn’t be happier with his transition supporting the IAM and his new involvement with another fantastic, worthwhile cause which benefits yet another cultural demographic. For more information about the IAM’s Mature Driver’s Assessment please visit the official IAM website here.